From the Relief Society Magazine, October 1961 –
Aunt Mattie’s Retirement List
By Klea Evans Worsley
All my young life Aunt Mattie and Uncle Stan lived next door, and the field-stone walk was worn smooth with the many trips both families made back and forth. Mama died when I was seven, and my sister Jenny, who was twelve, and Curtis, who was ten, told Papa that we could get along if Aunt Mattie helped out occasionally. He took us at our word and we managed somehow, with Aunt Mattie as our consultant from one to twenty times per day. Everyone in our small town said she had energy enough for ten women her size. We could never understand how she could take care of her own family of eight, be a mother substitute for us, head the ward Relief Society, nurse all the ailing children, bake fluffy angel food cakes for the Church bazaars, and continue the dozen other activities she managed. The amazing thing was that she seemed to do it with unhurried ease.
One evening when Papa had to work late, we three joined Aunt Mattie’s brood on the rolling back lawn for a game of Run Sheep Run. As we grew tired, we found ourselves clustering around her Boston rocker on the back porch where she was mending a pile of long black stockings. She was forty-two then, and, already, two of her children were married. Somehow, the subject of retirement came up, and we asked Aunt Mattie what she was going to do with her spare time when all of us were married and scattered around the county. She said she had been giving some thought to this herself, and had decided that in the back of the big blue notebook where she kept the household accounts she was going to start a “Retirement List.” This would list all the interesting things she wanted to do when she had more time. I remember that we discussed such hobbies as china painting, travel, home study classes in literature, and Aunt Mattie said that one thing she would do for sure was to write the family history.
Each year or so after this we would hear about some new hobby that Aunt Mattie said she was adding to her Retirement List. In turn, each of us married and moved away from the two clapboard houses side by side, but Aunt Mattie went on her busy way, without ever seeming to stop for breath. Whenever we returned for a visit, we noticed a few new wrinkles around her warm smile, but she didn’t seem to change much otherwise.
The year before her youngest graduated from college, Uncle Stan died. Everyone offered her a home, but she said that nowadays fifty-nine was just the prime of life, and she still had too many things to do to think of slowing down. Her cakes still enhanced the tables of the bazaars, her flowers found their way to the bedside of sick friends, and her zest for living and doing the ordinary things of our small town didn’t diminish in the least. It seemed almost unbelievable when we received the news that she had died suddenly of a heart attack, and even more unbelievable that she was seventy-nine.
While going through her things after the funeral, we found the old blue account book, and, for the first time in many years, remembered the “Retirement List.” Turning the yellowed pages at the back, we found it in her neat, precise handwriting. It was a long list and held the promise of challenging and, sometimes, even exciting activities. The curious thing about the “Retirement List” was that Aunt Mattie had never retired, and the nearest she ever came to any of the interesting hobbies was one page of the family history, which she had started fifteen years before.